Sunday, July 3, 2011

St. Pat's Conundrum

I know what's coming. 1) It's July so why am I writing about St. Patrick's Day? 2) This is a Reconstructionist blog, so why am I writing about St. Patrick's Day?

Let me address the first question by simply stating I'm catching up on my writing for this blog and hoping *wink wink* that others will help me keep this blog alive as I have a lot of projects I'm working on and am hoping that I can get many different traditions of Recon parents to write not just me. As I have been busy, I haven't really gotten to focus on this blog though I have tried numerous times to start at least one book review.

To answer the second question, as an Irish Recon pagan, we not only look to the practices of the ancients, but acknowledge that our ancient ancestors did become Christian. They weren't persecuted, they (relatively speaking) gladly accepted the switch in traditions and as we can see with the story of the collaborations of St Patrick, Irish Fili and pagan Kings in order to create the Senchus Mor (Irish Law Tract) combining of Christian ideals and Irish pagan law was deemed compatible. Patrick was there to represent the new religious understanding while the Kings were there to keep the honor of the pre-Christian ideals based in the original laws and the Fili were there to combine the two for the educated final decision. Through this we see Ireland respectfully utilized both and continued such traditions up until the English invasion.

Regardless of said invasion, we acknowledge that our current Irish counterparts are, in fact, happily Christian  today and for us to ignore such information would be turning our backs on our ancestors' evolution as well as the pride we have for Erin as it exists now. With that said, it is an individual Irish Recon pagan's decision to honor St. Paddy's and there is nothing wrong with choosing not to for whatever personal reason. In my personal practice, I do honor St. Patrick's Day as a day to share with my family, honor my American-Irish heritage and honor Ireland as it is today. My Irish immigrant ancestors thought it a worthy occasion and I happen to agree.

In regards to my family, I chose to make a traditionally inspired creation referred to as a "Kerry Pie." It is basically a Shepard's Pie, but with a crust on top instead of the traditional mashed potatoes. I also modified the contents to make it Iron Age specific as to keep with that theme (and to see if it would work for a later fire festival celebration). I'll tell you, it was very good, but most definitely not for those looking for fat free food, but that should go without saying in regards to Iron Age cuisine.

Because it worked out so well I'm going to pass on the recipe. Feel free to modify anyway you think would work for your family or purpose. It's good for any occasion!

(Blackbird note: any non-Iron Age specific foods have been removed)
Source: Allen, Darina, The Festive Food of Ireland, Pg 36-37

Mutton pies, made in Kerry, were served at the Puck Fair in Killorglin in August and taken up the hill where men were herding all day. The original hot water crust pastry was made with mutton fat but we have substituted butter for a really delicious crust.

Serves 6


450g/1lb boneless lamb or mutton (from shoulder or leg – keep bones for stock)
275g/9 ½ oz diced onions
275g/9 ½ oz diced carrots
2 tablespoons/3 tablespoons flour
300ml/1/2 pint/1 ¼ cups mutton or lamb stock
Sea Salt

350g/12oz/3 cups flour (Blackbird note: wholemeal/whole wheat would be Iron Age)
Pinch of  sea salt
170g/6oz/1 ½ sticks butter
100ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup water
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt, to glaze


1 trim off all surplus fat, saving the scraps, then cut the meat into small neat pieces about the size of a small sugar lump. (Blackbird note: I used ground beef and kept the majority of the fat)
2 render down the scraps of fat in a hot, wide saucepan until the fat runs. Discard the pieces. Toss the diced vegetables in the fat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove and toss the meat in the fat over a high heat until the colour turns.
3 Stir the flour into the meat. Cook gently for 2 minutes and gradually blend in the stock. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Return the vegetables to the pan, season with salt and leave to simmer, covered, until the rest is almost cooked. If using young lamb, 30 minutes will be sufficient; an older animal may take up to 1 hour.
4 Meanwhile make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out two thirds to 2.5mm/ 1/8-1/4 inch and line a 23cm/9 inch pie tin (or smaller, individual pie tins).
5 Fill the pastry-lined tins with the slightly cooled meat mixture. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg-wash carefully.
6 Bake the pie or pies at 200⁰C/400⁰F/gas6 for about 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Author: Blackbird O'Connell
Irish Reconstructionist Parent
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  1. That looks really good I cant wait to try it and get a copy of that book!

  2. I am very grateful for this post and have added a link to it in my St Patrick's Day post, I hope you don't mind. I felt a bit uncomfortable after I posted it in March as there were quite a few anti-St Patty posts by Pagans on the same day. I have celebrated the day since childhood and can't see that changing now.

  3. Helen - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I find that many Neopagans, Recons included have such a negative understanding of St Patrick's because they associate the Roman Catholic conquest of the rest of Europe with Ireland's Christian conversion. They were nothing alike. The Irish openly embraced the change as we see through the various legends and there is no record of the type of waring that went on in other countries in Ireland. It's a time to honor our all of our Irish heritage so there is nothing wrong with those who want to honor it. There is nothing wrong with those who don't want to, but they need to make sure they are aware of the actual history, not the history they choose to believe.

  4. Jonathan - She has quite a few cookbooks.